It was the phrase of the day earlier this week. "." I've been thinking a lot about dreams.
The night ones, mostly, which may not have been what Dr. King had in mind when he gave the speech that still resonates (and goosebumps) so much. But sleeping dreams, I would argue, are as important as, if not more important than, the awake ones.
I had assumed children don't really start dreaming until preschool-aged, familar instead with what's commonly referred to as "night terrors" that rock their sleep. But now I'm learning that they are in there, those magical dreamworlds, but the expression of them of course coincides with linguistic development. Even babies dream, but they can't talk about it.
My daughter, 3, has followed our adult lead and likes to wake up and talk about her dreams, albeit vaguely. "I dreamed about Santa," she said on Christmas morning, before we went down and found evidence of his arrival all over our living room.
What about him?, asked my husband, pressing for more details. "Santa," she said, emphatically, as if just the man himself was enough to fathom (he is).
There was one night, closer to the age of 2, when I went into her room and she asked in a delirious fog if I had eaten the hamburger on her floor, or something to that effect, as I was in a delirious fog too. That was the first real indication that some kind of alternate universe was indeed opening up to her in her sleep. But I'll never be certain, as I'll never visit that world.
What a trip is consciousness, especially the kind stirred into surrealist landscapes in our REM moments. Dreams are so essential to my survival, I feel, as they provide a way to work through the stressors of the day and tidy up deep unconscious junk too fabulous (or awful) for awakeness. If I don't get my eight hours, I don't get enough dream-time and I am not happy.
So there I am awake in the night, compiling a list of our massive worldwide string of weather catastrophes of 2011 and marvelling at how far away they already seem. Rampant wildfires in Texas, 18+ feet of snow in parts of Alaska, earthquake in Japan, flooding up here with Hurricane Irene, and so on.
How things in the farther distance seem so very far already -- time is so dreamy -- Hurricane Katrina wiping out so much of New Orleans in 2005. Could it really be seven years ago?
The water is rising, sings Matt Growden, a musician that used to play at the bar I owned in Brooklyn (also already some years back) and rocked my world with this song about Katrina, as goosebumpy as "I have a dream." For whatever reason, I've been playing it so much lately it entwined with my dreams in the night.
Last night, the world was submerged in rising waters. No one would survive, it was clear, yet everyone was trying nonetheless to get to higher and higher levels (the world was very layered with levels, much like consciousness). Despite knowing it would all end in vain, they tried. They climbed; they helped each other. The water is rising. Someone handed me the keys to their Mercedes or something expensive; car keys wouldn't matter now that you couldn't drive.
Often when Kaia wakes me up, too soon, I remain half in the dream for much of the day. It is hard to emerge. This watery nightmare remains so vivid, so haunting to me today.
So I wanted to learn a bit more about dreams, specifically to what degree my kid might experience them, and I consulted a different sort of doctor, Dr. Greene. In this article, "The Truth About Dreams, Nightmares and Night Terrors," he said that not only do we dream when we're kids, but we actually dream more when younger than older, maybe even as far back as in the womb.
This seems true, that kids should dream more. And that their dreams are so essential to nurture and respect, both day and night.
Then there was this interesting bit: Maybe we have these sleeping dreams when we are awake too but we don't hear them amidst all the noise of our lives. Now that's something.
"We may dream more during the day than we do at night! As mentioned earlier, when we sleep, we dream only about 20% of the time. During non-REM sleep, the brain rests. Growing evidence suggests that we have real dreams all day long, but these are not noticed because of the "loudness" of our senses and our conscious thinking... In a similar way, we have an unobstructed view of stars in the sky all day long, but we can't see them because they are overwhelmed by the light of the sun."
"At night, the stars and the dreams come out," Greene wrote.
Sleep, sleep tonight, and may all your dreams be realized.
That's the lullaby I've always sung to my children, care of U2. I hope it helps.